George Shearing & Don Thompson: "George Shearing at Home"

June 2013

George Shearing at Home“Just for Fun” Recordings Have Become Treasures

Jazzknight Records JKR001
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

George Shearing became practically a household word when the pianist was under contract with Capitol Records. His recordings comfortably crossed the line between pop and jazz and sold exceptionally well. He was often backed by strings, and did some significant duo albums with Nat King Cole and Nancy Wilson. No doubt, album titles such as Latin Lace, Latin Affair, Beauty and the Beat! (a duo album with Peggy Lee), White Satin, and Black Satin (with voluptuous female models on the cover) helped ease the public's fear that they might be buying a jazz album.

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Matthew Morrison: "Where It All Began"

June 2013

Where It All BeganSuave Vocals and the Ghost of Billy May

222 Records 222RO1
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

I'm a great fan of TV's Glee and have admired Matthew Morrison and his character, Will Schuester, from the first episode. Musically, the show has sometimes gone off the rails, but then it miraculously gets back to center with Morrison and the cast doing what they do best -- show tunes. Remember that tribute to "Make 'Em Laugh," from Singin' in the Rain? One of the most entertaining bits on television in a while.

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Thisbe Vos: "Under Your Spell"

June 2013

Under Your SpellImpeccable, Sophisticated Singing

Prime Productions
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

The title of the first album by Thisbe Vos was Sophistication, and that might well describe the mood and manner of Under Your Spell, her second CD. As she sings five timeless classics and seven new tunes that she authored, Vos gives the impression of a singer-songwriter who has arrived at the top and who needs only more exposure to comfortably stay there. I can't imagine anyone who loves music not loving Vos. And that's both as singer and songwriter.

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Mustered Courage: "Powerlines"

May 2013

Mustered CourageVirtuoso Bluegrass from Down Under

Self released
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

Folk music will never die. It will be revisited and reinvented by each new generation. Mumford & Sons are the latest and most recognizable incarnation, mixing rock and a few drum sets in with the banjos and guitars, resulting in sold-out arenas. Miley Cyrus has even touched on country and folk lately, and the result might surprise you. I believe there's folk music in the heart of every great performer. America is so rich in it that it's hard to ignore.

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Denise King & Olivier Hutman: "Give Me The High Sign"

May 2013

Denise King & Olivier HutmanBold Singing from Denise King

Cristal Records CR 209
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Talk about successful hands-across-the-sea unions! Denise King was born in Philadelphia and got her first singing experience in clubs in the City of Brotherly Love. Olivier Hutman was born in France and has quite a lengthy resume as bandleader, sideman, and film-music composer, having made over 200 recordings. The two met, toured together, and now have released Give Me the High Sign, their second album together. It sounds like they have known each other for a long time when actually their association has been very brief. But based on what I hear on this dynamic CD, their partnership should go on for a very long time.

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Thomas Gansch and Georg Breinschmid: "Gansch & Breinschmid Live"

April 2013

Gansch & Breinschmid LiveMadcap Music for the Concert Hall

Preiser PR91239CD
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

If you want to poke fun at music, it helps to be a virtuoso, a title that both Thomas Gansch and Georg Breinschmid can easily claim. Trumpeter Gansch and double-bass player Breinschmid met in 1997. Each had impressive credentials performing classical music, and together they decided to quit that business and play what they wanted to play, which included just about everything. They are now well on their way to joining the ranks of such famous music spoofers as Spike Jones, Victor Borge, and Anna Russell. They'd be right at home at the Hoffnung Music Festival concerts as well.

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Ben Sidran: "Don’t Cry for No Hipster"

March 2013

Don't Cry for No HipsterBen Sidran's Totally Hip 35th Solo Album

Unlimited Media 5638090383
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

In his written notes for this upbeat retro CD, Ben Sidran reminds us that hipster was originally a term used during Prohibition to describe a dude who arrives at a club with a flask in his hip pocket. If you were "hip," it meant you had booze. Later on, other meanings started to define the word -- anti-establishment, cooler than cool, the height of "it." Cannonball Adderley is credited with saying, "Hipness is not a state of mind. It's a fact of life."

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Raquel Bitton: "Rhythm of the Heart"

March 2013

Rhythm of the HeartA Magnificently Recorded Tribute to Tino Rossi

RB Records RB 4302

Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Raquel Bitton has spent a large portion of her professional life recreating the art of Edith Piaf. Bitton has performed her hit show, Raquel Bitton Sings Piaf -- Her Story, Her Songs, three times at Carnegie Hall and in music halls and theaters across North America. A PBS docu-concert film of the show, Piaf: Her Story, Her Songs, still continues to air on PBS stations. If you like Piaf (and who doesn't?), you'll enjoy Bitton's new CD, Rhythm of the Heart, though it is devoted to the memory of a different singer, Tino Rossi (1907-1983).

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Frank Vignola & Vinny Raniolo: "Melody Magic"

February 2013

Melody MagicThe Melody's the Thing in This Hot Club Collection

Azica AJD-72248
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

I am generally opposed to juicing up classical music. Back in the late days of disco, there was a series of recordings called Hooked on Classics that took themes from classical compositions and set them to a drum machine with a disco beat. Though I was amazed at just how many different melodies could be set this way, I was appalled that anyone might really record these efforts. To top things off, a local movie theater (which I attended at least once a week) latched on to the first LP in the series to play between movie showings. Needless to say, I started being a little late to shows, and at the film's end I moved myself to the back door so that at the instant the last credit was shown I could flee before being aurally assaulted.

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Laila Salins: "Elevator into the Sky"

February 2013

Elevator Into the SkyA Poetic Excursion into Insanity

Alectrona Records
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Anne Sexton (1928-1974) was the United States' most famous confessional poet, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1967. She had severe mental illness for most of her short life (which she ended by suicide), and she wrote of her suicidal tendencies, her battle against depression, and her efforts to come to grips with God. Her verses are so full of rich and vibrant impressions that it is no wonder to find that Elevator into the Sky is not the first time her poetry has been set to music.

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